Saturday, June 23, 2012

Robots with Aspergers

This will be my first real post in several months.  I tell myself I haven't posted because I am too busy... work, finishing my thesis, parenting.  The truth is I am very busy, but that hasn't stopped me from reading books, watching television, browsing other peoples blogs, and it isn't the only reason I haven't posted in my own blog.

 The main reason I haven't posted is because blogspot changed the settings on me a few months ago.  I logged on and all of the buttons were different.  It wasn't so different as to be impossible to navigate my way through the new look, but I really don't like when things change without notice.  It is disorienting and by the time I have sorted out where the "New Post" button is, I have forgotten what it is I want to say. ;At least facebook makes big announcements so I have time to prepare for these changes.

I use my Aspergers diagnosis to explain why I don't like certain changes and it is also why I am writing this particular post.  I have been looking at aspie characters in pop culture and am very annoyed by the limited portrayal of these characters.  Aspie characters are usually male (but then, statistically speaking, males are more likely to be diagnosed with Aspergers than women, so this kind of makes sense).  They are also almost always brilliant in some ways, usually in math and physics.  Think Sheldon from Big Bang Theory and you will have the general idea.  Now, don't get me wrong, I am quite fond of Sheldon (despite my annoyance at some of the ways his particular aspie traits are made to be funny when they actually create serious difficulties in people's lives) but we really need a more diverse portrayal of what Aspergers actually looks like.

I have looked at lists of people in pop culture who have Aspergers or aspie-like traits, which I am using to look at how these characters are depicted and there is one thing in particular that really annoys me about many of these lists.  Robots do not have aspie traits; they are robots.  There is a huge difference, and to write that Data from Star Trek or the robot played by Robin Williams in Bicentennial man has Aspergers is very insulting to those of us with that diagnosis (especially considering that I have been described as somewhat robotic at times).

 I think I know more people with Aspergers who are NOT particularly interested in math and science than people with Aspergers who are.  My "special interest" (if we are going to call it that - I have a lot of interests and am not nearly as one dimensional as most of the depictions I have looked at would have one believe) has to do with tracing out networks of social relations between people to see how their actions and decisions are influenced by broader social structures (I don't usually use the term structure, but I'm not going to get into that here, and structure is a rather easy way to describe it that can be easily understood, so I will keep it for now).  I don't expect the average sitcom to reflect these subtleties, and I haven't exhausted the list of aspie characters in books and film as of yet, but what I have seen and read thus far is quite limited.


  1. Mr.Awesome says:

    Good to see you're back to blogging. I missed these.

    Aspie is a new word to me. I've heard it only once before seeing your blog. According to Urban Dictionary (I know but what am I supposed to use?) Aspie is a friendly name or, cute? name for someone with aspergers. It's interesting because the first time I saw it used was in a sentence that was like this:

    "... can't really go there because alternative opinions will cause some aspies to surge out on you"

    So I fear that something cute and friendly (I would dare say cuddly) name like aspie will be framed in a pejorative way.

  2. My son has aspergers and I find blogs like your so helpful. I have found a lot of helpful asperger's advice from I hope this is helpful for others who have children with aspergers.

  3. The robot in Bicentennial Man doesn't have Asperger's in a clinically correct sort of way. It is a parable that is meant to symbolize the beauty and peril of the experience, and the dangers of society to the innocent and strange.